Professor Dame Hazel Genn to lead new projects with The Legal Education Foundation on the link between legal and health problems

Thursday 27 July 2017

Professor Dame Hazel Genn is to continue ground breaking research into the value of integrating legal advice in health settings for promoting health and wellbeing with the support of new funding from the Legal Education Foundation (The LEF).

The project, ‘The Value of Health-Justice Partnerships – Research on Outcomes, Implementation and Future Directions’, will enable Professor Genn and the UCL Centre for Access to Justice to continue and develop vital work already undertaken, looking at the link between legal and health problems. The project has three broad strands.

First, it is helping to build the evidence base for understanding the role of legal advice in addressing health morbidities and reducing pressure on primary care services. Professor Genn, in partnership with Martin Marshall Professor of Healthcare Improvement at UCL, has established a student legal advice clinic integrated within a GP practice in Newham which offers the opportunity to GPs to refer patients directly for free legal advice in situations where GPs feel that a patient’s health condition is being caused by or exacerbated by an underlying social welfare issue such as poor housing, homelessness, welfare benefits issues, employment problems and so on. An essential part of this project is research to establish the extent to which the provision of legal advice is associated with improvements in patient wellbeing and possible reduction of service use.

Second, Professor Genn is convening a workshop in November 2017 which will engage health-policy decision-makers in the potential of early legal advice in reducing health inequalities and contributing to better health and well-being among vulnerable groups. Sir Malcolm Grant, Chairman of NHS England, and former President and Provost of UCL, will Chair the workshop and engagement is already in train with key policy makers.

The third strand to the project comprises a feasibility study of the potential for a UK national centre for Health-Justice Partnerships that might assist in removing some of the existing barriers to the establishment of partnerships, promote best practice in service delivery and rigorous evaluation research to support policy development. Professor Genn is working on this with the Chairs of the US National Centre for Medical Legal Partnerships and the Australian National Centre for Health Justice Partnerships.

The Legal Education Foundation Director of Research and Learning, Natalie Byrom, said:

‘We are delighted and privileged to be working with Professor Dame Hazel Genn on a number of projects in 2017 and early 2018. We are extremely excited about progressing the agenda of the value of health-justice partnerships, and could not hope for a better ambassador for this important area of work’.

Professor Dame Hazel Genn said:

‘I am delighted that the Legal Education Foundation is again supporting the UCL Centre for Access to Justice’s work on researching the link between legal advice and well-being. Extending our work in this area will enable the vital study of health impacts to continue, and the additional support from the LEF will allow us to find practical ways in which to help both individuals and health care providers’.

Over the coming year, Professor Genn will be working on three other projects. The first concerns the implications of online courts for the future of justice, which will be the subject of the Birkenhead Lecture to be delivered at Gray’s Inn in October 2017. Second, Professor Genn will be completing an empirical project investigating pro bono representation of litigants in person in the Court of Appeal.

Finally, Professor Genn will be working with the Nuffield Foundation and the Legal Education Foundation to investigate effective strategies for building capacity to undertake empirical research into issues around justice reform. The workshops will build on the seminal inquiry: ‘Law in the Real World: Improving our Understanding of How Law Works’, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by Professor Genn between 2003-2008.

As Professor Genn prepares to step down as Dean of UCL Faculty of Laws on 1 August 2017, in addition to working with The LEF, she will continue to be Director of the UCL Centre for Access to Justice, Co-Director of the UCL Judicial Institute and return to further academic research and teaching.